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I am in a science class in which we have to write lab reports. Lab reports count for a significant part of our grade. I was working on my lab report but before I got to check over my calculations, a peer of mine mentioned the results he got. I realized that my results were different and saw that I had a very dumb calculation error.

I am not sure if this is considered cheating because I am not sure if I would have noticed the mistake had I not heard from my peer (although I did plan on checking over my work).

I was wondering if anyone had any opinions on this situation. I plan on telling my teacher exactly what happened tomorrow before handing in the report, I just feel really bad and guilty now. Any help/advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

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    Just learn from the experience. Since this made you uncomfortable, keep your work closer to your chest in future. // As you continue with your studies, do check with each instructor whether group work is permitted. If it's allowed, then you'll be able to compare notes with others without any feeling of discomfort. – aparente001 May 23 '17 at 2:08
  • Many instructors also focus more on analysis than results, as that is generally the more difficult part. I don't think it'll be a problem if you explain it to the instructor. He/she will probably actually think higher of you if you do this. – FantaC Jan 13 '18 at 18:33
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I don't think this is cheating at all, unless you specifically asked peers of their results.

The important thing is the understanding of the material. Your peer may well have been wrong in their answer and led you down the wrong path, but the important thing here is that you've double-checked your own work and recognised a mistake.

  • Is this cheating even if you ask what their results were? You've never cross-checked your final answers with your peers before turning in your work? – Mehrdad Jun 11 '17 at 0:32
  • @Mehrdad Well yes, strictly if it's an individual piece of assessment, then asking other course members their result is colluding in my opinion. And no, I trusted my own work more than others'. – Mike Miller Jun 11 '17 at 0:42
  • lol, I guess I asked the wrong person, but surely you must've had a lot of classmates who did? Were they all cheaters to you? – Mehrdad Jun 11 '17 at 0:53
  • @Mehrdad Haha yes, I did have a lot of people ask what my results were and I'm not denying this happens (and is very common!) but strictly I think it is cheating – Mike Miller Jun 11 '17 at 0:56
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    I can't say your position is illogical :) but it's certainly unconventional. Generally speaking, what 90%+ of my profs have said is that homework/labs are meant to teach, not to assess. Assessment is what quizzes/tests are for. That's why they're so often even willing to work through problems with you during office hours (even in groups!), and even tell you if you did something wrong. Otherwise I would be thinking that everyone who went to office hours and effectively received the solution was cheating when I'm doing the work on my own and just checking my final answer with someone. – Mehrdad Jun 11 '17 at 1:02
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If you corrected and understand the error, it may not be cheating, but there is at least one caveat: If the syllabus or professor states that collaboration is prohibited, it is cheating because you violated the terms of the class.

The safest route would be to tell the professor (or annotate your work) documenting the careless mistake. If you explain that you understand the problem, it's probably ok.

In my view the goal is understanding the material foremost. In fact, I have graded exams with slight computational errors with only a slight (e.g., 1point) penalty if the process is correct. That's why students are often directed to 'show all work'.

Honesty is always the best course.

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    Honesty is always the best course. "Best" in a moral sense maybe. But don't be honest expecting it to always work out for you. – sgf May 24 '17 at 8:22

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